Each November, my husband insists he wants nothing for his birthday—no party, no presents, no balloons or noisemakers or special sparkly hats. He will permit cake, but only if it's eaten in secret, and only if it's carrot.
So that I could eat it, too, I set out to find a vegan recipe that would work gluten-free. People seem to love the Ginger Macadamia Coconut Carrot Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance, so I made a few tweaks to the recipe (more warm and cozy, less Caribbean), and used a mix of gluten-free flours, flax seed, and xanthan gum. I worried when the pudding-thick batter clung to itself in the middle of the cake pans. I became alarmed when the batter never gained loft and browned after only 30 minutes. I was prepared to pull out my back-up all-purpose flour and start again on a cake at least one of us would be able to eat.As the layers cooled, a few pokes indicated they were in fact fluffy in the middle. I decided to frost them. I was excited to find non-hydrogenated Tofutti cream cheese at my natural foods store, but it didn't hold up well in frosting. No matter how much powdered sugar I added, the whole concoction was gloopy. I threw on shredded coconut and some walnuts to disguise its resemblance to Elmer's glue.
We ate the cake, and it wasn't bad. A little dense, but I'd make it again with some vinegar and baking soda. It wasn't the ostentatious, gleaming white display of frosting ruffles and marzipan carrots I'd imagined but it tasted good, and believe me, I've made uglier birthday cakes.
Four years ago there was this lop-sided spice cake with
melted wax vanilla frosting. Our oven wasn't level, so the layers were like wedges. I couldn't be bothered to to frost the sides, or to wait for the cake to cool before assembling it. I'm just not a details person.
Even better is the chocolate cake I made my husband in the kitchen of our dorm when we were first dating. It says "Happy BDAY." Squeezing frosting through the cut-off corner of a ziploc bag did not allow for the elegant script I'd envisioned.
Next year, my husband says he wants something non-traditional, like grilled birthday pineapple. I can definitely make that look good.